Friday, April 25, 2014

4 Weeks In...

I'm jumping on board. It seems like everyone knows someone who has decided, either for medical reasons or just as a preference, to go gluten-free. Although I'm not sure why anyone would subject themselves to that level of torture just for preference or for weight loss. Because, let's be honest, who doesn't love a hot, flaky biscuit, or a donut from Krispy Kreme when the Hot Now light is on? Why someone would voluntarily give that up I have no idea. But, I digress.

So if you don't know what gluten is, it's basically in everything delicious. Kidding (kind of). Basically it's a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and malt. But that information is everywhere and you can find out more with a google search. Plus those people will be smarter than me anyway. I'm more worried about sharing the personal side of this story and how gluten affects me (and maybe you or someone you know).

I've always had headaches. Since as far back as I can remember. We are talking all different types of headaches; sinus headaches, tension headaches, migraines, you name it and I've had it. Regularly. Like 4 or more per week for my whole life. I buy Advil in the giant tubs at Sams Club and everyone laughs when they see it on the kitchen counter. Or when they hear me walk into a room because of the pills jingling in my purse. And there was a time that I thought I had carpal tunnel syndrome. Mom took me to the doctor and they did all these special tests and shocked the crap out of my arms to see what was causing the numbness in my hands in the mornings.

And about 9 years ago, I developed a rash on my legs and arms. It wouldn't go away. Sometimes it would heal in one spot only to reappear in another only days later. I had been to regular doctors and specialists for this crappy thing and no amount of lotions or creams or antibiotics could kill it.

The numbness in my hands and the migraines started about the same time; right as I started high school. . Also, around that time I started to notice there were certain restaurants that made me really, really, sick. It was mostly italian restaurants like Olive Garden. I noticed that no matter what I ate there, I would get a really bad migraine and end up on the toilet for days after eating there. (sorry for that visual) The rash started right after I started college, and at that time I hit 21 and I also started to notice that drinking beer had the same effect on me as eating at Olive Garden. I told the Hubs that I thought I was allergic to beer and Olive Garden and he thought I was nuts.

After we got married, we started trying to have kids. I had a miscarriage, and I went back on birth control for a while after that. I started to notice that my brain seemed really foggy all the time. I noticed that there were a lot of times when I knew what I wanted to say but words and phrases that I used all the time were hard for me to come up with. I would catch myself saying stuff like, "what's the word for when you...." and the answer would be something simple like "change lanes" or "investigate". It was like phrases I used everyday were hard for me to remember or use in a sentence. I thought it was the birth control so I stopped taking it, but that didn't help the fuzziness go away. I was always tired and I could sleep like 11-12 hours a night no problem, and I would still need a nap the next day.  

Now, I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes, because for years I had friends who noticed similar symptoms, plus others like early onset arthritis, or numbness in their hands and legs in the morning. Those friends all decided to stop eating gluten and saw a dramatic improvement in their symptoms and their overall quality of life. I had several people tell me that I should look into the symptoms of Celiac disease or try to cut out gluten and see if it helped my symptoms. All I heard was stop eating bread and I knew that was not an option for me.

Well, the rash got increasingly worse, and it got so itchy that it was all I could think about. I finally went to the doctor. He tested me for Celiac disease, which it turns out I didn't have. That was a major bonus. But, he said it sounds like I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which can have all the same symptoms of Celiac disease without the autoimmune component. Basically, people with celiac have more gastrointestinal issues (and maybe other issues as well) while people with gluten sensitivity have more non-GI symptoms like foggy brain, joint pain, numbness in legs/hands, or chronic fatigue.

I heard the doctor say that and I immediately went to Chick-fil-a and ordered a fried chicken biscuit because I didn't want to deal with that. Long story short, after a couple more weeks of pretending the doctor was wrong and my symptoms would go away on their own, I stopped eating gluten. That was almost 4 weeks ago.  And I simultaneously wish I had cut it out sooner, and that I didn't have to do it at all and I could have one of those chicken biscuits again.

What I mean by that is this: I feel better than I ever, ever, ever have in my whole life. My headaches are g.o.n.e. I haven't had a single headache in almost a month, except for the migraine I got immediately after eating something with gluten in it by accident. That's an all-time record. Also that migraine was my wake up call that this is serious. I'm can't just play around with it and eat gluten free when I want to and have a double cheeseburger on the weekends. Well, I could, but I am afraid I would pay dearly for it and to me, it's not worth it. I am not nearly as tired as I was before. I can thrive on 6 hours of sleep, whereas before, that would have been my husband's worse nightmare. Me on no sleep/too little sleep is like shooting Godzilla with a tiny airplane- your town will be destroyed. Now, I can get up early and go to the gym without falling asleep at my desk at 8 am or killing a co-worker for looking at me the wrong way. My joints don't hurt when it rains and I can run on the treadmill for more than 5 minutes without being crippled the next day. My foggy brain is gone and the annoying film on my contacts is gone and I can see clearly without running to the eye doctor every month for a stronger prescription. It's amazing!

The downside is that I'm past the rainbows and unicorns phase where the health benefits alone keep me from salivating over a donut or wanting to shoot someone for a loaf of french bread. We have now entered the despair phase. The poor, pitiful me part where I realize I can't go out to eat like a normal person without making the waiter want to spit in my food because I have to ask for the ingredients of every marinade and whether they fry their french fries in the same oil as their breaded chicken nuggets. I'm starting to become more comfortable with ingredients like xanthan gum and corn starch, and I'm learning to try (and fail miserably) with new recipes. There have been some successes though so it's not all bad. And as much as I'm complaining right now, it's still worth every single minute to not have migraines and a nasty rash all up my leg (why hello swimsuit season, I've been afraid of you for the last 3 years so let's make up for lost time).

So, there's all the dirty details of why I'm not eating gluten anymore. Maybe someday I'll take a picture of all my recipe fails so y'all can laugh with me (or at me) because last night's crab rangoon and sesame chicken was downright inedible. We are still laughing about it. If you made it this far into this post you are either my mom or some sort of super human who just loves reading. Either way, you deserve a medal for your dedication.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Only Hope We Have

Have you ever noticed that as humans, our life seems to go through stages? Sometimes it seems like you are on top of the world and everything is going right, and sometimes it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under you and there's no hope left. Sometimes you are just stuck in the middle.

Lately everything for us has been good. I feel like we are in a good place financially, with both of our work situations, with relationships, and just with life in general. But I have several friends who are in the middle of going through some very very hard stuff.

There's a friend who is working so hard to serve Jesus. She's doing everything she can to dive deeper and learn to trust and help others get there too. But Satan knows and he hates what she is doing and what she's learning. He's turning everything she knows into a lie. I know she's trying to hang on, but I can see something cracking. I don't know how much more she can stand.

There's a young girl who is fighting for her life. She's heard about Jesus all her life but she doesn't think it can be true. To her, that amount of power and love and goodness can't possibly exist. She's fighting through fear and pressure to be popular and pretty and smart and athletic and good all at the same time. She doesn't even know that perfection outside of Christ is just a cleverly crafted lie. She's trying to escape, but the razors and the drugs aren't enough anymore. She's desperate, but she doesn't even know what she's searching for.

And there's a man. A man with a boy inside somewhere but his heart is calloused from years of seeing and doing hard things. He has to keep his heart hard to keep himself strong, but he's forgotten that strength comes from the Lord. He belongs to Jesus, always and forever, but it's been years since he's spoken that powerful Name. He turns to the bottle to forget that's he's lonely and hurting and afraid, and he wraps it all up cleverly, hidden behind his humor and his good looks. He's holding it all together, for now.

This morning I was praying. For some of these people I didn't even have words. Their pain is dark and haunting and so so real. Their situations are so different: one trying to live it out, one prodigal who doesn't know what lost is, and one who's never even known the truth. But for each scenario, each pain-filled journey, there is one over-arching solution.


He's the only hope we have. 

He's the only hope we will ever have.

That sounds cliche, but I don't mean it that way. I mean to say that the only hope for the desperate, the dying, the searching or the lost is the powerful, life-giving Savior. The name of Jesus is enough to send the powers of darkness running in fear because it's the Name above any other.

It takes real courage to fight when it feels hopeless, to get up in the morning when your heart is tired and there doesn't seem to be a reason to keep going on, to cling for life day by day by day to the only Source of life.

The Enemy is real. His name is Satan and he's a dirty liar. He doesn't give you truth, but rather a version of the truth which is really a beautifully packaged lie. He attacks the weak and the helpless and those who are obedient and even those who don't know he's coming.

But, we have this Hope. 

 John 16:33 "I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

If you're searching and you don't know how to start, consider telling Him. Look for Him. Ask Him to show up. He is so faithful.

And if your life is going great? Don't be fooled. Jesus is your only hope too. Without Him we are all just slowly dying in our own sin. With Him, we have the power that raised the dead to life, the love that reached out to lepers and the unwanted, the grace that searched each of us out in the middle of our mess. There is no salvation apart from Jesus (John 14:6). And if your life is good right now, maybe there's someone in your life who is struggling? They don't need you to understand or to have gone through the same thing, but they do need your love and your prayers. And sometimes, they might just need someone to remind them that there is a Hope.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Snow Pictures

Well, Snowpocalypse 2014 has come and gone, and the Polar Vortex is now a distant memory for most, so it seemed like the perfect time for me to post all of these snow pictures I've had sitting on my computer since January. If you know me in real life then you know this is just about par for the course, because I'm late for e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

Anyways. This winter was Boston's first one, and there was plenty of snow for her to play in. She loved it. I, on the other hand, hate snow, so Robby was the one who took her out to play in it and I would mainly come out to take pictures and then retreat to the warm fire.

She was pretty hesitant at first. She did a lot of shaking and trying to get the cold stuff off of her coat. 

Then, she found her favorite stick half buried in the snow, and she realized it was actually pretty fun to dig around in!

She came up with a white nose and face on more than one occasion. 

She doesn't usually stand still long enough for any type of picture, so I took advantage of the times that she paused to try to figure out what was going on.

 This is probably one of my favorite sets of pictures of Boston.

And of course, the snow was made even better by the fact that there weren't many cars on the road and she could run free without a leash. So when she spotted her daddy's truck she took off.

This puppy loves everyone, but her daddy is her favorite person of all time.

This one is not in focus at all, but it does show her hilarious personality. She is 100 miles and hour all the time.

While we were outside, I tried to exercise my photography skills and get a shot of a snowflake using my macro lens. It is definitely harder than it looks!! This was the best picture I got in an hour of trying, but you can still see some of the individual flakes. God is so cool. 

 And finally, my favorite part of snow days: snuggling with lots of blankets and a warm fire.

We have a hatch door that leads outside where you can load in firewood. Robby keeps us loaded down during the colder months.

Even though he's the firewood stacker, I am the fire builder. To be honest it's just because I'm a little more patient and I don't let it die as quickly. It's a job I take seriously. Just look at that fire burn!

It's a rough life for a dog these days. Playing in the snow really wears Boston out! Haha.

Since it's already spring I guess this is the last we will see of those kinds of temperatures until next year. Thankfully. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

One for the Memorial Box

Well...It's official. I'm going to get myself a box this weekend to start storing up all these memories of what God is doing in our lives. He is working! In some ways I feel like this hard season of our lives is teaching me so much more about Him than I ever knew before.

This is a story of Faithful God, and how He delights in giving good gifts to his children. (Matthew 7:11)

It starts with an unruly attitude that has been building in my heart for the last two months. It's no secret that Hubster is in grad school. It's no secret that I am sick. of. it. I am proud of him for working toward his dream and I am proud of him for sticking with it even when it is so hard. BUT. Sometimes I get a little resentful of having to spend all my time filling out class forms and checking payment dates and making sure he gets everything done on time. And sometimes I get a little resentful of getting awesome bonus checks from work for the first time ever and then having to turn around and spend all of it on one payment for a class.

So last Tuesday was Bible Study at a friends house, and we were talking about how to be free from whatever is holding us back. At the end there was a time for prayer requests, and I'm not usually this open or honest (unfortunately) in a room of complete strangers, but I wrote down that I wanted prayer for my stinky rotten attitude about Robby's grad school, specifically about how I felt upset that I never got to use my commission check for what I wanted to. I felt pretty bad about even writing that down, because really? How selfish is that? People are starving all over the world and I was mad about having to use money that had been given to us for something I didn't want to use it for. I should have been grateful that God was providing that money for his school payments in the first place.

But I'm human y'all.  And isn't that what prayer is for anyway? 

So my friend has been praying for me. And it's gotten so much better. Today is paycheck day, and we pulled out all the money for grad school. I was feeling a little resigned about the whole situation but at least I wasn't mad anymore.

As I'm working through a normal day, my father-in-law (also my boss and the owner of the insurance agency I work at) comes by and drops a check off at my desk. I didn't even know what it was, and I'm honestly still not sure what it's for, except that it's for me. Apparently our cost sharing was good this year so the company was giving back a little bit to each employee.

But can I just tell you.... The amount on this totally unexpected bonus check is actually more than my regular commission check came out to be after taxes were taken out.

I was only asking for prayer for my attitude. But God changed my attitude, and then he changed my situation too.

This check stub is definitely going in the Memorial Box. 

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:11

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Not Being a Mother is Bringing Me Closer to God

For me, the hardest part of every blog post is the blank page, and the war that goes on in my head between what I want to say and what I don't want everyone else to read. Because who wants to air out all their secrets and their dirty laundry on the clothesline of the internet? But there are times when I just have to close my eyes and pretend no one is reading and write it all down anyway, because this is my story and I want to remember.

I don't remember being little and carrying around baby dolls, although my mom would probably tell you that I did. I do remember playing "mom" with my real life baby dolls, my little brothers. I was changing diapers and babysitting for the neighbors' kids on a regular basis long before I hit middle school, and I loved it. I remember volunteering for church nursery and checking out every book our library had on international adoption and playing with babies during my brothers' baseball games so their moms could relax.

And in college there was one psychology class where we were asked to write about our dream job, and I thought I was going to fail the assignment, but in a moment of brutal honesty I wrote that all I've ever wanted was to be a mom.

Now I find myself three and a half years into marriage and approaching my thirties with more speed than I would have imagined. This is the time of life when most twenty somethings start trying to have kids. In fact, almost all of our friends already have at least one kid, and some of them are on their second (or third or fourth) baby. This is the time when most (usually well-meaning) adults will start to wonder to themselves or whisper when you leave the room, or even ask you straight outright, "When are you two going to start having kids?"

As if it's something that people just stumble upon like picking up seashells at the beach.

For us, kids aren't in the cards right now. And I don't know when they will be. That is something that has been such a struggle for me to wrap my head around these last two years. See, back in 2012, we thought we were ready. We started trying to have a baby, and I actually did get pregnant. But we never made it to that first doctor's appointment before I lost the baby. When I went to the doctor they found a large tumor on my left ovary. Later that year I had another tumor removed and they found endometriosis that for whatever reason wasn't able to be removed. But the reason we aren't trying to have kids is more than medical.

(And just to throw out my personal opinion, you should need a medical reason to tell people why you don't have kids yet.)

Robby's in graduate school, and we are trying to do this lovely adventure debt-free. It's taking up way more than its fair share of our time, and our paychecks, and our good moods (ha!). On top of all that, as if it wasn't reason enough, is that Robby's not quite ready for kids right now. The reasons are his own, and I'm not mad or bitter about it, we are just in different places. I'm sure he would be happy if we found out we were having a baby, but I don't want him to feel like he's pressured or forced into anything, because that would be a crappy way to welcome home a new baby.

The other day I was listening to the radio, and the guy was talking about being able to trust God. I had the horrible thought that I knew God was trustworthy, but that I didn't know if this was something I would be able to trust Him with forever. I've been struggling with trusting Him with this day by day, minute by minute.
It seemed like too much to even imagine being ten or twenty or thirty years down the road and not having kids, and trusting Him enough to be ok with that. Maybe that sounds melodramatic, but we are talking about my deepest desire.

But God is so faithful. He's been giving me glimpses of how wonderful life can still be without kids. I'm still hoping that this phase of life isn't going to last forever, and that one day we will have one or two or even a whole bunch of kids. But I'm realizing that even if that never happens, this life I have been blessed with is still sweet. There are moments when I truly enjoy being able to sleep in late or do whatever I want, and moments when I enjoy loving on someone else's baby and then going home empty handed. It's slower paced, and my house is usually quiet.

Sometimes my heart hurts because it feels like something is missing, but God's using that to drive me to Him. I don't think my dependence on Him would be as hard fought or that my prayer journal would be as worn thin. I don't think that my prayers would be as earnest or that I would have nearly as much time to give to others. I am afraid that if I had kids right now, He wouldn't be using me in the specific ways that He's been using me lately. I wouldn't have extra time to make meals for all these people I know who need a little extra blessing. I wouldn't have had a closet full of baby clothes and toys to give away freely last week to a mom in need.

I'm even starting to see the bigger picture of how God's using the hard stuff that we went through a few years ago as a platform to build some amazing stuff. I don't know how my life would be different if we already had kids, but I'm tired of feeling like I'm missing out because I'm the only one who isn't talking about breastfeeding or car seats or feeding schedules. I'm choosing instead to be thankful for what I have right now, and for how awesome it can be.

Because really, it's not honk if you are happy, it's honk to be happy.

“Give thanks IF you are happy” is in reality:
If you want to be happy — give thanks.”
Giving thanks is what gets you joy. 

-Ann Voskamp